Friday, June 03, 2005

Welcome to the real world young designers!

Written by Muid Latif.

Like A Virgin
Yes, you may have infatuation, you may be talented, you got the charisma, you got that thang going on and you are ready to ‘tackle’ the market with your crazy ideas and designs. And then, there was ‘Once upon a time, there was a young prince’s who love to write poetry (ideas) so he decided to travel to the Castle of the Two Towers (KLCC) and presented his poem to the King of the Never land (The Client) and the King was so upset therefore he sent his guards (Stakeholders) to sentence the young prince to the dungeon (Car Park)’. Well, few turn out to be lucky instead of successful, some were successful but they are not lucky. Successful comes when you are hardworking, dedicated, being a trustworthy person and full of courage. But if you are lucky, you’re just doing fine then. What I mean is that either they are charming, opportunist, love to take advantage or they ought to work in a different environment, a place where people appreciates creativity, allowing designers to express their freedom in design, or have clients who love beautiful ideas that came from a designers visionaries.

Young graduates might envision being a designer in Malaysia is so ‘cool’. Being able to dye their hair (yes, here in Malaysia), wear funky clothes, carrying cool electronic gadget such as iPod, Sony Erricson or a Nokia cellular, carrying Lomo or a digital camera. But reality calls to foresee each an every one of them, as once they are in the design industry, things goes the other way around. Let say, after three (3) months, we can perceive sound from designers, argumentative about their current situation as a designer. Telling how pitiable their live as they are now. You be acquainted with, “I have to stay back; we got too many datelines, the client is so f%#&up, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!

Let’s face it. How can you see a quality design work in Malaysia? You can identify and count how many agencies who works for quality and other agencies or companies who just simply lick client’s %^*es to make sure they get paid, “Yes Sir to everything!”, and at the end, hurting their own employees, deceasing employees and abusing the law of labor. They never had been thought to protect themselves with justice.
So, how many of your clients can give you free flow without getting that bounce-back (return) of your creative ideas that you have been working for over a month?? “No, that green kaler (color) look similar to 7-11 woh…, We wany something related to mother-nature, can we have pink??” Hello! Well, ain’t that a fact that this is Malaysia and we are bounded with the rule of stereotypes clients and those I should called *katak duduk dibawah tempurung* which means na├»ve people who still living in the Stone Age.

What are ‘monkey business’ in design world?
It covers the aspect of these catagories: office politics, conspiracy, gender discrimination, and you have to pleased people to get to the top. Going to job interview is like heading for an audition, like American/Malaysian Idol. The look is much matter then your work. It’s changing you to somebody you are not. We can’t accept people to change, so? We are the one who should change. *Sigh… And when you are working, you will be frustrated with your Project Manager (PM) or programmers, thus creating that versus conspiracy again. More funny is that more senior designers are taking more jobs or workload compared to the junior designers. You start losing control over yourself. You are in deep pressure. You have to attend another three to four meeting to brainstorm again and again, documents are well planned as claim but action? - Not any. Everyone lost their respect towards each another; consequently, short of appreciation because everyone believes they are too important, pleasing people they had work more than everyone else and lead that person to become self-centered and breaking up the professional relationships. No more ‘harmony’ working environment in the office.

Getting yourself as a talented and hardworking person, apart of being noble doesn’t exist in the Malaysian working system. You have to cheat, you have to lie, you have to be ‘opportunist’, you have to rip-off or stole other else’s ideas and have to stab a lot of people to get to the top, yes it’s true. And that’s the way to survive if you want more notes in your pocket, to get a higher ranking in your company. Yes, to Malaysians, those subjects are very important so they can lavish more lifestyle. And that is heck that these youngsters don’t realize what they are about to face. It’s a poor thing.

I was just talking about being a full time designer just now. What about the freelancers? Now freelancers ‘did well’ in Malaysia, they make more money but hold on, there’s a tight challenge and it’s unpredictable. There’s no accuracy, too many hidden agenda and to stay strong, you have to know a lot of people, get in touch with the design communities and seek friends as much as possible to increase information and knowledge as far as possible. It’s all about the contacts. You can’t just sit there and expect people to approach you work. Freelancers have to struggle more then they used to be and work as much wiser and harder than those who work on ‘9-5’ basis jobs. Oh, unless you’re a government servant, then you can just simply relax and be passive as usual. The bad news is that, at any moment when you (freelancers) who involved in freelance projects, nevertheless you will face the most hair wired situation; i) clients who corn designers, ii) mistreated ‘deal’ in terms of pricing, iii) shut you down immediately on current project iv) etc, thus, leaving you in ‘devastation’ and emotionally disordered. A lot of lesson learned.

We know here in this industry, there’s too numerous “conman” who plays cheapskate, who desires quality of work, that all-in-one package, but pay designers for the price of a garbage cleaner (no offense!). How is that possible? Aren’t we graduated from a good design school? Didn’t we learn philosophy in art & design, those avant-garde or whatever the heck we can turn things and around us into art? We got all it takes to give a full-blast in proper design development, and why the heck we get low payment on every work we produce? Our quotations and invoices seem to be rejected every time we send to them. What was the reason behind all this? They acclaimed that RM1,500 for a website is too much, leaving us completely berserk. FYI, we freelancers also have to settle our own bills too, but seems to ‘eat’ whatever we got, as long the client can pay us. Isn’t that pathetic? It’s life. That’s a learning experience, but for how long can we hold on to this career? Do people really abuse arts & creativity? Do we still have to be a designer at the age of 30? Where do we go from here?


Commencing on the response of this article, I feel that I didn’t mean to offend anyone, especially the designers. My intention is to ensure those young designers out there who are about to face new challenges, must first know what they are about to be drawn against.

I feel that on my end, I will and ought to strive harder, have more compassion and try to be as patience as I can, though sometimes I have to admit controlling emotion is difficult. Yes, there’s flow and I’m getting on it. It’s like a roller-coaster, you thought you know all the direction of the track, you predict it but actually you never know when it’s really going to go up or down, all depends on how prepare you are to face it.

I like to thank Syamly who had inspired me with his quote: "We experience d it and thank God we survive". And that is to be thankful and grateful for all the things build upon our life till now. I cherish and joy for it from this moment on.

And would like to thank my dear friend, Danny Foo for his POV on his experience, as well as the follow up to my article. Read his 'Malaysia Now' from his blog. [+]

Written by Muid Latif. (copyright protected)
* This ain't my last dance, sugah

3 opinions :

dannyFoo said...

Why the sudden rant Muid? *pats you on the back* If you're saying charging every client RM1.5k for an HTML website, I think you've gotta come back alittle more to the ground in these times. :)

Anyway, I'd be very interested in discussing a certain project with you. It might test the duration of our friendship in the long run. MSN me, okie.


*cosmic freak* said...

its a superficial world out there ...

when you have a degree from a local uni, they prefer the other candidate sitting next to you with a US degree ...

when you have a business degree from uitm, they prefer the other candidate siiting next to you with a BBA from taylor's college or KDU ...

when you have a graphic degree from uitm, they prefer the other candidate sitting next to you with a degree from Lim Kok Wing or MMU ...

when you have a degree in mass comm, they still prefer the hot model who doesn't even finish her school to be the next top host ...

why bother ... we have to struggle to get our pot of rice full ... and its a farking superficial world out there, enough said ...

andrew said...

Hi Muid,

Interesting read there. Just my 2 cents on the problems faced by freelancers.

Freelancers have a branding problem actually. Apologies if im already stating the obvious.

Ppl, no matter how big their company, are just unwilling to pay freelancers the kind of money that's at the very least decent.I've also no doubt that Muid, you most prolly do a better job than most. Yet, bigger agencies/small web companies for some reason always seem to land the deal despite how their work are only at best mediocre. We loose out yet again and the very next day, we go on with our daily struggles at the bottom of the food chain.

We can keep on blaming the clients for being cheap chinamen and wallow in our own self pity, or we can change our attitudes to make a difference.

We can fix this, if and when we fix our branding. Take up the challenge to the bigger companies, package ourselves professionally and offer value added services to clients on top of our design work. There's more to it than just good design work. Good business proposition, great sales pitch, unbelievable turnaround time, awesome client servicing, efficient project/client management, after sales support and most importantly, selling a good business experience to our clients.

At the very end of the day, all our clients wants is assurance for a good job done. Not forgetting, good design as well.

We don't have to do this alone. I believe its to our advantage to work with a group of brilliant talents that complement our own.

...i should stop here :)